What if I told you that in around 1-2 hours a week you could prep your meals and snacks, save huge amounts of time, reduce temptation to eat out, make weight loss or building muscle easy, and simplify thinking about what to eat? Yep, they’re pretty big claims. But for the last 4 years, I’ve used bulk cooking to do all those things. Some people go to church on Sunday, some watch sports. I throw on some Aussie hip hop, crank up the volume, rap along, and bulk cook. I can’t go on enough about the benefits of eating healthy food consistently. But most of us already know this. So, the real issue is how to make eating healthy fit in the context of busy lives. Drum roll . . . enter bulk cooking/meal planning. Let’s look at how you can start cooking your way to a leaner body, without Jamie Oliver’s skills.
Get Started Bulk Cooking in 5 Easy Steps
Step 1 – Plan (10 Minutes)
Decide on what you want to bulk cook. Will you start with breakfast meals? Pack snack foods into Ziploc bags? Or are you comfortable making a bunch of easy dishes to last you for the week? Build your main meals around:
- Protein: meat, fish, eggs, protein powders, vegan sources, etc.
- Clean carbs: brown rice, oats, potatoes, yams, fruit, etc.
- Colourful vegetables: mixed greens, carrots, tomatoes, capsicums, etc.
- Healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, omega-3s, avocado, nuts and seeds, etc.
Step 2 – Write a Shopping List/Meal Plan (15 Minutes)
Find recipes for the meals you decided on in Step 1. Write out a shopping list with the ingredients for meals and snacks. KEEP IT SIMPLE. No complicated recipes at this point. Focus on finding your groove first.
Step 3 – Grocery Shopping (45 Minutes)
Take your list and buy all the ingredients and snacks. Having a plan before you go will save time, and stop you getting lost down the junk food isle. When you get back, stick the list on the fridge. This is now your weekly menu of meals and snacks. No coming home and searching the cupboards for something to eat. We’ve taken care of food-induced decision fatigue (I think that’s a thing!?).
Step 4 – Get Cooking (60-90 Minutes)
Here’s how bulk cooking pans out (10 points for the pun!):
- Start cooking your long lead time items first (e.g., get the potatoes in the oven or rice on the stove).
- While they’re cooking, start prepping your protein source (fry up mince, boil eggs, wash beans, etc.).
- Now that you’ve got a couple of things cooking, you can cut up salad ingredients or prep other side dishes.
- You should aim to have 1-3 tasks going at once. For example, protein in the oven, rice on the stove, and cutting up salad ingredients.
- Clean as you go. Stack the dishwasher or wash up while you’re waiting for things to cook.
Here's a quick video to show you how simple the cooking steps can be.
Here are some of my meals and snack foods for the week. These are really basic and don't require 5-star chef skills. I pick stuff that I can make with little or no prep time.
Step 5 – Store It (10 Minutes)
Store foods away in airtight containers, so they’re ready to go. When storing food, there are two main approaches:
- Store all foods (e.g., meat, vegetables, rice, salad ingredients, etc.) in separate containers. This is my preferred method, as it keeps food from mixing and stops salads going soggy. In the morning before work, combine ingredients for your meals into containers. I’ll make two containers up: a salad and lunch meal.
- Make ready to go meals by combining portions of protein, carbs, vegetables, and fats into containers. That way you just pull out a meal and heat it up.
My fridge locked and loaded for the week.
Kitchenware You’ll Need
You can get away with basic kitchen equipment and don’t need a huge space (but more room always helps). I have a really simple setup that includes:
- Two pots (large and small)
- Large frying pan
- Chopping board
- Chef’s knife
- Two roasting trays
- Slow cooker (optional)
- Steaming basket
- Ziploc bags
- Plastic containers
- Large mixing bowl
A lot of recipes use similar ingredients. You should stock up on the below staples. You can make a range of different seasonings with these. Think of country-specific flavours like Italian seasoning, Cajun spice, and curry powder.
- Minced garlic
- Healthy fats and oils
- Sea salt and peppercorns
- Dried herbs and spices
- Fresh herbs
- Vinegar and lemon juice
- Olives and capers
- Tomato paste
- Low-calorie sauces
- Stock cubes or broth
Bulk Cooking Minus the Cooking
Here are some hacks for bulk cooking when you’re strapped for time or don’t want to cook. Simply buy the ingredients, store in portion sizes, and you’re done!
- Buy precooked protein like BBQ chicken, meats, eggs, beans, and tofu. Freeze or store in the fridge. Serve with healthy sauce or flavouring of your choice.
- Buy pre-made salads.
- Add a range of healthy, ready to go snacks like nuts, fruit, oats, yoghurt, cheeses, and clean deli meats.
Find a Routine That Suits You
I bulk cook/prep for my breakfast, morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea meals for Monday to Friday. I cook my dinners fresh, but make meals that last for two nights. With this template, I bulk cook on Sunday morning, and cook dinners on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights. Come up with a routine that works for you. Here are a couple of options:
- Sunday option: bulk cook a range of meals and snacks on Sunday (or any other day) to last for the week.
- Dinner option: double the recipe and eat leftovers the second night. Or triple it and freeze a portion.
- Meal delivery or pre-cooked meals: if you hate cooking and can afford it, you don’t even need to do the legwork yourself. Google ‘healthy meal delivery service’ for your area. You can also buy pre-cooked meats and vegetables from your local salad bar.
Practice Makes Perfect
As with everything I write about, start small and work with the skills you have now. It’ll take a few goes before you nail bulk cooking, so stick with it to reap the rewards. If your cooking skills are limited to 2 minute noodles, start simply by making snack food that doesn’t require cooking.
Here are some of my favourite foods to bulk cook or prep in advance.
- Protein: eggs (boiled, scrambled, omelette, etc.) protein powder shake, yoghurt, sausages and meats, beans.
- Vegetables: throw some spinach into your protein shake or add lots of veggies with eggs.
- Carbs: oats, quinoa, beans, fruit, rice, and potatoes.
- Additional fats (if needed): avocados, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Lunches and Dinners
- Protein: bulk cooked meats (slow cooked roast, pulled pork, lamb meatballs, grilled chicken, hamburgers, and chilli), stir fry, curries, Thai and other dishes.
- Vegetables: roasted or steamed. Tomatoes, onions, carrots, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts work well.
- Carbs: brown rice, quinoa, yams, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, taro, and fruit.
- Additional fats (if needed): avocados, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Salads and Snacks
- Salad: pre-washed greens and any combination of colourful vegetables that you like. Dress with olive oil, vinegar, and sea salt.
- Snack foods: fruit, chopped vegetables, mixed nuts, hemp seeds, nut butters, yoghurt, protein powder, dips, clean deli meats, and cheeses.
How to Start Bulk Cooking
I write to share my experiences and knowledge with you. But my ultimate goal is to give you information that’ll help you eat, move, and live optimally. Get these right, and you’ll transform your body and change your life. So, I like to end each post with some actionable steps you can take immediately.
To get the most out of this post, commit to trying the steps below next time you go grocery shopping. Decision creates action. Action creates results.
- Set aside some time next Sunday (or any other day) to test this out.
- Follow the 5 infographic steps and plan your meals for a week.
- Start by cooking very easy meals, or just preparing snack foods. Don’t try to do too much at once.
- Stick with it for 2-3 weeks, or until you get quick enough to make large amounts of food in 60-90 minutes.
Add a comment below and let me know if you currently bulk cook, or what meals you're going to make.
Finally, if you want help in putting together a customised program to transform your body, hit me up here.
P.S. If you liked this blog post, I’d owe you one if you could get it out there by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on social media. You might also be interested in my free e-book: The Battle Tested Body Transformation Guide.